Saturday, 12 November 2011

Methinks: Recency Illusion!




I used to frequent a now extinct Philosophy forum called MadPhilosophers.com. There was a fellow poster DFT (Der Furor Teutonicas: The Fury of Teutans). He frequently used term ‘methinks’ in his posts and I found it interesting and without doing any further research I internalized it because of its style quotient. It was not until I came across Shakespeare’s usage of methinks that I realized that my belief about the recency of this term ‘methinks’ was in fact an illusion-Recency Illusion!

 The Recency illusion is the belief or impression that something is of recent origin when it is in fact long-established. According to its inventor Arnold Zwicky, the illusion is caused by selective attention, which is cognitive bias-which reinforces in you a propensity to match observation with the conviction or preoccupation of yours. In other words selective-attention is just an opposite of original observation.

An excerpt from Wikipedia:
The term was invented by Arnold Zwicky, a linguist at Stanford University who was primarily interested in examples involving words, meanings, phrases, and grammatical constructions. However, use of the term is not restricted to linguistic phenomena: Zwicky has defined it simply as, "the belief that things you have noticed only recently are in fact recent".



Linguistic items prone to the Recency Illusion include:
  "Singular they" - the use of they to reference a singular antecedent, as in someone said they liked the play. Although this usage is often cited as a modern invention, it is found in Jane Austen and Shakespeare.


  The phrase between you and I, which likewise can be found in Early Modern English.

 The intensifier really as in it was a really wonderful experience, and the moderating adverb pretty as in it was a pretty exciting experience. Many people have the impression that these usages are somewhat slang-like, and have developed relatively recently. In fact, they go back to at least the 18th century, and are commonly found in the works and letters of such writers as Benjamin Franklin.

  "Aks" as a production of African American English only. Use of “aks” in place of “asks" dates back to the 1600s and Middle English, though typically in this context spelled "ax."